Sunday, July 20, 2008

Top Ten Online Resources for Doc Filmmakers

While there are plenty of other websites and blogs out there which have resources for independent documentary filmmakers, there are a few we've come across in the past year which we think are especially useful. They are listed in no particular order.

(1) How to Increase Your Chances of Getting a Grant
From Wildsound’s website. While this advice is fairly generic and you should always look at the specific requirements for any grant, this is probably one of the most succinct descriptions of the elements which belong in most grant proposals.

(2) ITVS: Meet the Execs
The D-Word has been putting together useful online forums on various topics of interest to doc-makers for years. One of the most beneficial in recent months was this Q&A with four leading executives from the Independent Television Service (ITVS) who explain the ins and outs of applying for funding from ITVS. Note: You will have to sign up for the D-Word to read the forum, but it's free and easy.

(3) Ask the Documentary Doctor
You remember Fernanda Rossi’s column from the print version of The Independent. She always seemed to know exactly what challenge you were having with your film at just the right moment. Her sage advice can continue to be found online through Documentary Educational Resources and the new online version of The Independent.

(4) The Ten Rules of Personal Documentary Filmmaking
We’ve screened and worked with so many films which have a personal element and found that these can be some of the most challenging to make - either because the filmmaker is ambivalent about putting himself/herself in front of the camera or goes to the other extreme and dominates the film at the expense of the greater story. There are a handful of filmmakers who have made a successful career out of telling personal stories and Doug Block (51 Birch Street and Home Page) is one of them.

(5) and (6) Fair Use Resources
Rights clearances and costs can often be the biggest nightmare for doc filmmakers, but perhaps nothing is more confusing than the issue of fair use. When and how can it be used? The Center for Social Media at American University is perhaps best known for their Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use, but their website has many more resources and examples which help define what can be considered Fair Use. And for filmmakers considering taking the Fair Use route, Stanford University’s Law School has launched a Documentary Film Program, providing filmmakers with information about fair use, access to insurance for liability arising out of copyright litigation, and access to lawyers who will defend copyright claims pro bono or at reduced rates.

A wealth of moving images are available for download, the majority of which are free and have unrestricted access. Includes the Prelinger Archives of more than 60,000 ephemeral films, many of which are in the public domain.

(8) 25 Best Festivals for Documentary Films
AJ Schnack’s All These Wonderful Things is one of about half a dozen must-read documentary blogs out there. We picked this entry from earlier this year because knowing which festivals are consider the A-list for documentaries is essential to helping to map out a festival strategy.

(9) True Fans and True Films
Kevin Kelly's must-read for those who want to go the self-distribution route or even those who plan to combine a more traditional path with grassroots outreach. An excellent primer on finding your audience.

(10) Peter Broderick’s Distribution Bulletins
And in the same vein, Peter Broderick has some of the best advice out there for those who are navigating the wilds of distribution. While others are often pessimistic about the future of documentary as being a viable career for true independents, Broderick’s wealth of knowledge about independent success stories offers a bit of hope.

Know of other online resources you've found useful to making your film? Post them here. We only ask that you post websites or blogs that you've discovered rather than just promoting your own sites.